Sports Canada Basketball brass remains confident in NBA participation at Olympic qualifier

03:40  08 april  2021
03:40  08 april  2021 Source:   cbc.ca

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Canada was forced to play in that far-flung tournament because it failed to beat Venezuela the previous summer in the semifinals of the FIBA Americas Championship in Mexico City. A win in that game would have sealed an Olympic berth. Both losses came with a familiar lament: the team was unable to "What we went through in the summer of 2016 is a little bit of growing pains," says Michele O'Keefe, the president and CEO of Canada Basketball . "A lot of our athletes in the NBA were just finishing up their first professional contract, and so we were in that period where they weren't able to play internationally

Canada 's Olympic basketball chances suddenly look great — but the NBA MVP stands in the way. Jamal Murray and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — arguably the two best players in the country — announced Tuesday that they'll play for Canada in its last-chance Olympic qualifier this summer. Canada 's Olympic hopes took a hit last summer when all its NBA stars bailed on the World Cup. That cost Canada a good opportunity to qualify for the Olympics . But with Murray and Gilgeous-Alexander swooping in this far out from the final qualifier , it just became a lot easier to recruit the best players.

a hand holding a football ball: Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was among the Canadians to commit to the Olympic qualifying tournament in November 2019, but his participation hinges on the success of his NBA team. © David Zalubowski/The Associated Press Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray was among the Canadians to commit to the Olympic qualifying tournament in November 2019, but his participation hinges on the success of his NBA team.

With the Olympic men's basketball qualifying tournament less than two months away, Team Canada General Manager Rowan Barrett remains hopeful of fielding a mostly full roster.

"Yes. The simple answer is yes," Barrett said when asked if he anticipates full participation from Canadian NBA players.

Canada must win the tournament, scheduled for June 29 to July 4 in Victoria, in order to book its ticket to the Tokyo Games.

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The momentum keeps building for Canada 's men's basketball team. RJ Barrett became the latest NBA star to commit to playing this summer in Canada 's quest for its first Olympic berth since the 2000 Sydney Games. "I'm very proud to say that." The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., declared his intentions Wednesday hours before Knicks faced the Toronto Raptors in Barrett's first NBA game at home. Barrett's announcement continues a groundswell of commitment from some of the country's top players.

The men's qualification for the Olympic basketball tournament will take place from 2019 to 2020; all five FIBA (International Basketball Federation) zones are expected to have representation in the Olympic basketball event.

Due to the delay of the NBA season, however, those dates conflict with the playoffs that run May 22 through July 22.

The Victoria tournament should fall toward the end of the second round or beginning of the conference finals, and any Canadians still contesting for the title would be extremely unlikely to leave their NBA team.

Prior to the pandemic, in November 2019, Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, of Kitchener, Ont., led a chorus of NBA players committing to the qualifying tournament. Others included Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Hamilton, Ont.), Memphis Grizzlies forward Dillon Brooks (Mississauga, Ont.) and New Orleans Pelicans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Toronto).

Last week, Canada head coach Nick Nurse said he also expected a "very high participation rate," while revealing that the organization had recently conducted a big meeting ahead of the qualifier to plan out the summer.

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Eight teams at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Men's Basketball Tournament. Teams designated as OQT winner will be those qualifying through the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in Victoria, Canada ; Split, Croatia; Kaunas, Lithuania; and FIBA Secretary General, Andreas Zagklis, said: "We are looking forward to enjoying the world's best basketball players performing this coming July in the capital of Japan. FIBA is confident for the smooth delivery of the Olympic Basketball Tournaments based on the close partnership with the IOC and

The 2020 FIBA Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournaments will be the four basketball tournaments that will be contested of 24 national teams

With the schedule in flux amid the pandemic, Barrett says that meeting was mostly to go over the latest changes and protocols, which are then relayed to players.

"They're in their seasons right now so it's not like you're trying to call them every week about all this stuff, but give them the broad strokes of the times going on to make sure everyone's aware of what the summer will look like for us," Barrett said.

Potentially busy summer ahead

Michael Meeks, an assistant coach on Nurse's staff, said training camp would likely start around mid-June. The team is scheduled to play a CEBL all-star team on June 18.

"And then from there, it's moving on to prepare for the Olympic Games," Meeks, who played for Canada's last Olympic men's basketball entrant in 2000, said.

With Nurse's Toronto Raptors outside of the playoffs, the coach is seeming likelier to be with the team for the entire duration of its summer schedule. But Murray, the top Canadian player, presents a dicier scenario, with his Nuggets sitting fourth in the West and coming off a conference finals appearance in 2020.

Canada, ranked 21st by FIBA, is grouped with No. 6 Greece and No. 29 China in the qualifying tournament. The top two teams from there advance to the semifinals, where each meets a team from Group B, which includes the No. 12 Czech Republic, No. 15 Turkey and No. 45 Uruguay.

The semifinals and final are single elimination, with the champion advancing to the Tokyo Olympics.

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